Harbourfront welcomes Flaherty's promise
After long period of financial uncertainty, agency to receive $5-million over five years
CITY HALL BUREAU CHIEF
After a long bout of financial uncertainty, Harbourfront Centre has won a pledge of stable funding from the federal government.
The non-profit cultural agency will receive $5-million a year over five years, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced yesterday, confirming an election pledge by Conservative Leader Stephen Harper.
The commitment marks a change in fortunes for Harbourfront, which attracts 12.6 million visits a year to a wide mix of cultural programs that reflect the ethnic diversity of Toronto. "This is the most welcome news we have had in a very long time," said Harbourfront CEO Bill Boyle, noting that the long-term government commitment makes it easier to attract private donors for programs, 70 per cent of which are free to the public.
In recent years, the ruling federal Liberals committed to funding the agency only one year at a time. On the eve of the Jan. 23 vote, after Mr. Harper's promise, Liberal ministers added their own verbal commitment to long-term support.
"For too long Harbourfront Centre has had an uncertain future," said Mr. Flaherty, who also has political responsibility for the Toronto region.
He was flanked by two other Tory cabinet ministers -- Treasury Board president John Baird (who has political responsibility for Harbourfront) and Canadian Heritage Minister Bev Oda -- at a press conference held at the agency's waterfront site on Queens Quay West.
Ms. Oda topped up Mr. Flaherty's news with a promise of $840,000 through 2009 toward the cost of festivals and other cultural programs.
The federal announcement drew warm words from some unlikely sources, including Toronto Mayor David Miller, who during the federal election campaign was cool at best to the prospect of a Conservative government in Ottawa.
"The kind of co-operation we have seen on this issue speaks to the co-operation the two governments need on many issues," the mayor told reporters at city hall.
The mayor and Mr. Baird, who will be together again today for a funding announcement at Union Station, lobbed compliments at one another yesterday.
"He has a sense of humour and sees the waterfront for the tremendous opportunity it is," said Mr. Miller, who was publicly thanked by Mr. Baird for providing stop-gap city funds pending the federal dollars for Harbourfront.
MP Olivia Chow (Trinity-Spadina), a New Democrat, also lauded the government commitment to the agency, which lies within her riding.